A new partial lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus in France is having a smaller impact on the national economy than a total lockdown earlier this year, the French central bank said Monday. But business leaders still expect a sharp decline in activity across the board in November, as order books at construction companies shrink, the bank added.
France’s second lockdown, which began Oct. 17 and is now expected to stretch beyond Dec. 1, was aimed at minimizing damage to the economy just as a recovery was starting to take hold during a summer rebound. Unlike the earlier lockdown, France is allowing public services and schools to stay open, and activity at construction and factory sites to continue.
The Banque de France said it expected the economy was likely to show a shrinkage of about 12 percent in November from a year ago. That compares with a wrenching 31 percent year-over-year contraction in April, when economic activity ground to a halt.
Whether that improvement lasts remains to be seen. Fears of coronavirus outbreaks have worsened the outlook for French business activity, and are likely to lead to a wave of layoffs, economists say.
French companies have said they expect earnings to decline in 2021, and they don’t expect to substantially increase spending on capital investment.
Working from home, and the use of socially distanced workplaces has so far helped maintain corporate activity. The opening of schools is easing child care burdens for employees with children.
Activity in agro-foods, pharmaceuticals and other industrial sectors enjoyed a bounce after an earlier national quarantine, and are now back to pre-pandemic levels, the central bank added.
At the same time, a quarter of the economy remains hard hit by social-distancing measures, including hotels, restaurants, tourism and catering, the central bank said.
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